You know how you’ve got people in your life that make such an impact – either in a brief moment or over an extended period of time? Think about some of those people – are they teachers? Coaches? Bosses? Co-workers? Friends? Grandma or Grandpa? Crazy Uncle Bill?

Take a minute to think about how they impacted you at the time or in the moment, then move those thoughts ahead to what you’re doing today. Did their influence stick? Did you change the way you think or behave as a result of the time spent with those folks?

My parents have some friends they’ve known for most of their adult lives, and I’ve had the privilege of spending time with them and learning from them my entire life.

Pass it on

Recently my high school daughter and I met up with these friends, Denny & Linda. As my daughter shook hands with Denny, he complimented her firm handshake. I laughed because he was the one who taught me how to shake hands when I was about 9. That one small, two-minute lesson he took the time to give me on presenting myself with confidence made a profound impact on the way I’ve conducted myself ever since then. And I’ve passed that lesson on to anyone and everyone willing (or maybe not-so-willing) to listen.

Reach higher!

Linda is a really big thinker and always has great aspirations for everything she touches. And she has not-so-subtle ways of letting you know you’re reaching too low and need to set your sights higher.

In middle school we had a Career Day assignment to interview three people and learn more about their careers. I chose an elementary school teacher because that’s what I knew I wanted to do.

Linda, an educator herself, made arrangements for me to interview a couple of accomplished career women in very public positions. She then also connected me with our local congresswoman to be a page at the state capitol.

She always pushed me to think bigger and try new things. She wanted me to know the world was much larger and offered many more opportunities than how I saw it at 13.

The moment

When in college, I had the opportunity to work with Denny on a project for his start-up business, and it was a life-changer for me. I suddenly saw a world of opportunities opened before my eyes, and I realized I could do anything with it that I wanted!

Failure is a good thing?

The business, unfortunately, met some factors outside of their control and they had to close, but they were still left with the “investment” to pay off as debt. In consistent form, they pushed ahead with their always-interesting and ambitious goals, not letting this slow them down. I learned so many things in watching them through this:

  • “Failure” is not always something within your control
  • It really is okay to fail, and it doesn’t have to stop you
  • Every day is a new day to make new decisions and have new aspirations
  • It’s up to you to decide if you want to do the hard the work to make it happen

Follow, lead, or get out of the way

Following this small business experience by working for a Corporation made me realize with full gale force that I needed freedom of thought and action in order to be really effective for those around me. Working within the strict confines of a pre-defined job does not bring out the best in me.

I also began to see that taking a risk was going to be a consistent part of my future. Even when I’ve worked for other companies, I’ve put myself on the line to stand up for my dissenting ideas.

Nature vs. nurture

When I look back at my younger self and read through early teacher comments on my report cards, I wonder…

Would I have been this person I am today had it not been for the relationship with Denny & Linda?

I’m quite confident that I would be a little less – less confident, less assertive, less willing to believe in myself, less willing to take a stand and take a risk.

Some of this has been obvious, direct influence, and some of it has been passing conversations, or just observations along the way. But every bit of it has been influential. And that’s the point.

Every time you take the time to talk with someone (kid, family, co-worker, client…anyone!) and really listen to them, you have an opportunity to make an impact on their lives. You’ll influence lives in ways you’ll know and in ways you’ll never know. Sometimes it’s small; sometimes it’s significant.

Who’s influenced your life that deserves a big “Thank you”?


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Photo by olegdudko